MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines refused to comment on President Rodrigo Duterte's most recent pronouncements regarding the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), deferring instead all related queries to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Duterte on Sunday said the country cannot prevent China from building facilities in the shoal in the disputed South China Sea.
It was a reaction to reports that Beijing was building a monitoring station in Panatag.
“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” Duterte said.
(America couldn't even bring China to stop.)
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that China planned to undertake reclamation work in Panatag but the US apparently managed to talk Beijing out of it.
Located some 370 kilometers from Luzon and prized by Filipino fishermen for its rich resources, the shoal was seized by China from the Philippines in 2012.
Chinese coast guard blocked Filipino fishermen from accessing the shoal, prompting Manila to take Beijing to a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal.
The tribunal ruled that Scarborough is a traditional fishing ground not only for the Philippines but for other countries surrounding it, and that China may be violating the Philippines’ rights by blocking access to it.
China loosened its grip of the shoal after Duterte sought to improve ties with Beijing. – report by Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News